Story at a glance
- New research estimates dementia cases worldwide will rise from about 57 million recorded in 2019 to 153 million by 2050.
- The rise is primarily due to population growth and aging.
- Several dementia risk factors — such as smoking, obesity, high blood sugar and low education — will also fuel the spike.
The number of adults over the age of 40 with dementia is expected to nearly triple across the globe by 2050 unless steps are taken to address several risk factors, according to a new study published Thursday in The Lancet.
The analysis forecasting dementia prevalence in 195 countries and territories estimates dementia cases will rise from about 57 million recorded in 2019 to 153 million by 2050.
While the dramatic rise would be primarily due to population growth and aging, researchers note several dementia risk factors — such as smoking, obesity, high blood sugar and low education — will also fuel the spike.
Cases are predicted to rise in every country, with the highest increases occurring in north Africa, the Middle East and eastern sub-Saharan Africa.
Dementia cases in the U.S. are forecast to double by 2050, increasing from 5.2 million to 10.5 million.
“We need to focus more on prevention and control of risk factors before they result in dementia. Even modest advances in preventing dementia or delaying its progression would pay remarkable dividends,” Emma Nichols, researchers from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington and lead author of the study, said in a statement.
“To have the greatest impact, we need to reduce exposure to the leading risk factors in each country. For most, this means scaling up locally appropriate, low-cost programs that support healthier diets, more exercise, quitting smoking, and better access to education. And it also means continuing to invest in research to identify effective treatments to stop, slow, or prevent dementia,” Nichols said.
Researchers project improved access to education alone could lead to 6 million fewer dementia cases globally over the next several decades, but warn that could be offset by an estimated 7 million additional cases linked to obesity, high blood sugar and smoking.
Dementia results from a variety of diseases and injuries that affect the brain. Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia and makes up about 60 percent of all cases, according to The World Health Organization. Dementia is the seventh-leading cause of death worldwide.
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